A 15-step checklist for getting your online store ready for the holidays
As the 2022 holiday season approaches, the saying “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” springs to mind. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say “hope for the best, prepare for complexity.”
It’s no secret that inflation and supply chain issues have made holiday predictions more difficult. Meanwhile, the eCommerce customer journey is the most complex it’s ever been, with more and more ways to shop online and in person.
Despite these new challenges, the holidays are shaping up to be a fun and wild time. You must be prepared for whatever may happen and start preparing ASAP.
To help you out, our team of eCommerce experts has assembled a list of tips and resources to guide your online store through this holiday season and maximize your chances of success.
Tips for prepping your online store
Your eCommerce site is your brand’s flagship destination, where shoppers can find the most comprehensive selection of products and the richest trove of content. To make the most of the holidays, your site offerings need to be robust and function seamlessly. Towards that end, make sure you check off these critical steps.
01. Prepare for an influx of traffic
There’s nothing worse than a site outage, especially during holiday sales events or product promotions. An outage doesn’t just prevent customers from completing a purchase—studies show that brand trust is heavily impacted by site speed, so a glitchy or slow-loading site can put your reputation at risk. Poor site performance can even impact brand visibility, since Google factors in page speed when deciding on page rankings.
To avoid unwelcome surprises, test your website across multiple devices and install any third-party eCommerce apps early on. Avoid launching new apps or rejiggering your site in the middle of the peak season. Finalize any new integrations now to ensure that they work perfectly in November and December.
More tips for website speed and performance:
The true cost of an eCommerce site crash—and how to prevent it with Wix
Why page speed is the key to your website's speed optimization (and how to improve it)
02. Get your mobile site ready
Mobile sales drove 43% of all online shopping revenue during the 2021 holiday season, according to Adobe, and mobile devices accounted for more than half of online revenue on six peak shopping days (including Thanksgiving and the weekends leading up to Christmas).
This year, mobile is poised to win an even greater share of holiday dollars. You’ll therefore want to cater to customers on-the-go by auditing and optimizing your mobile store. Ensure that your product pages are easy to find with a few taps. Avoid overcrowded or hard-to-read pages. Audit mobile loading times, and simplify menus and page elements to account for smaller screens.
More mobile best practices:
Understanding mobile commerce's growing importance to holiday sales
03. Make sure that products are easy to find
Make it easy for your customer to discover relevant products by offering multiple pathways for finding the perfect gift. Video lookbooks, quizzes, and gift guides can be very useful for shoppers who arrive at your site without a specific product in mind.
Alternatively, add “related products” recommendations that can help cross-sell or upsell buyers as they’re browsing your site.
For shoppers who already know what they want, your navigation menus and search bars should feature seasonal items or promos, including links to gift cards and themed collections.
More tips for inspirational product discovery:
04. Finetune your product pages
The holidays aren’t the time to skimp out on your product pages. Publish robust product pages that contain everything that shoppers need to know to confidently make a purchase.
In addition to extensive photos and detailed item descriptions, consider adding product comparison matrices, how-to videos, and in-depth content about how your products are sourced (if appropriate). Show delivery timelines or local pickup options (if applicable), so shoppers know all of their options upfront.
More product page guidance:
Writing product descriptions that convert customers and charm Google
Product photography 101: how to take product photos that sell
05. Put your best offer on the table
With inflation causing record-high prices, consumers are on the hunt for ways to save: 78% are looking for discounts, according to research from Morning Consult, and 69% want to avoid shipping fees while half seek free returns.
Offering a discount can help convince your shoppers to hit “buy.” Remember, however, to balance the incentives carefully. While deep price cuts can drive holiday sales volume, they can also set the wrong expectations with new customers. New customers may expect low prices year-round if you’re not careful.
During the holidays, free shipping is an especially attractive offer. One in five consumers report switching sites to get free delivery, while a third will never pay for shipping, according to research by Shippo. Of course, it’s important that you protect your margin. So, deploy free shipping offers strategically for limited-time periods or for purchases above a spending threshold.
Tips for savvy promotional strategies:
How to offer fast and free shipping without killing your profits
06. Optimize the checkout process
A simple, clear checkout process is paramount to clinching the sale. In fact, roughly 20% of shoppers abandon their carts because the checkout process is too complex.
To avoid losing sales in the final stretch, design a checkout flow that caters to various payment preferences and devices. Connect Wix Payments to accept major debit/credit cards, PayPal, digital wallets, BNPL, and other popular forms of payment. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, use Wix Point-of-Sale to ensure synchronization between your online and offline transactions.
When it comes to the checkout experience, note that nearly half of consumers say data security concerns can erode brand trust. You’ll therefore want to prominently message that payments are secure and work with a provider like Wix eCommerce that offers a proven solution.
Read more about checkout and payments:
Buy now, pay later: 5 reasons your online store needs it now
Tips for prepping your operations
An online order represents a promise to keep—and during the holidays, meeting expectations for inventory availability and on-time fulfillment is more important than ever. To achieve this level of service, you’ll need to make sure that your back-office operations are running as smoothly as possible, from how you manage your inventory to how you fulfill orders.
07. Optimize your inventory flows
In normal times, inventory management can already be difficult. The holidays only add to the pressure—and safe to say, you won’t want to be testing shoppers’ patience.
Protect your brand from overselling, late shipments, and other costly mishaps by setting up the right inventory flows ahead of time. Harness inventory management tools that can automatically sync quantities across your sales channels. Connect with your 3PL or suppliers and discuss ways to ensure order accuracy, fast shipping, and custom packaging if necessary. Set reorder points, reserve safety stock, and even accept pre-orders to keep your inventory in check.
If you’re looking to take a more hands-off approach and potentially expand your holiday offerings, you can always explore dropshipping or print on demand. Both allow you to outsource storage and fulfillment, and only pay for what gets sold.
More inventory management tips:
Overstock inventory is a $1 trillion problem—here's how to handle it
9 of the best print-on-demand companies for selling customized products
The ultimate hype strategy: how pre-orders work in eCommerce
08. Send inventory to fulfillment centers early
While forecasting demand is tricky, it’s crucial to get an early start and stock up on your merchandise. Then, move stock to where it’s likely to be needed most, whether that entails your physical stores, fulfillment centers, or local warehouses.
Amply stock each provider with the inventory you plan to promote, and be mindful of cutoff dates for partners like Amazon FBA that require holiday inventory to be sent early. Double-check that your items and packaging comply with 3PL requirements to prevent any foreseeable delays, and test your order management system to ensure shipments are routed properly.
Guidance for priming your fulfillment network:
The "impossible task" of eCommerce logistics: how to get it right
09. Sell in-person with Wix Point-of-Sale
While times have changed, physical retail is no less valuable. Warby Parker, Everlane, and even Amazon are just some of the brands going “from clicks to bricks” and establishing physical stores to grow their business.
Even if you don’t have a physical footprint year-round, the holidays are ideal for temporary store formats. Think: standalone pop-ups, mobile units, or “store within store” concepts like the recent matchups between Kohl’s and Sephora, or Macy’s and Toys “R” Us. Holiday craft fairs and markets present other opportunities.
Whether your physical sales location is a temporary experiment or a permanent community fixture, take advantage of Wix Point of Sale (POS). Wix POS offers both mobile and docked solutions for accepting payments wherever you sell, and keeping orders, prices, and quantities consistent across channels.
Read more about POS:
10. Expand pickup and delivery options
Nearly a quarter of online holiday orders were fulfilled using “Buy Online, Pickup In-Store” (aka BOPIS) in 2021—and for good reason. BOPIS offers a fast, free fulfillment option for customers, while minimizing shipping costs for sellers. Given that more than two-thirds of BOPIS users purchase additional items in store, this strategy can be a revenue-winner.
If you have physical locations, see if offering store or curbside pickup makes sense. Pair this with other shipping options, taking care to update your shipping policies (e.g., your delivery timeframes, delivery areas, and costs) for the holidays.
For more on shipping best practices:
Ecommerce shipping solutions and best practices: your complete guide
11. Set up your multichannel strategy
While your online store is your digital home, you’re likely to attract a wider audience if you branch out to other popular destinations like Amazon, eBay, and others.
During the 2021 holiday season, Google found that 54% of consumers used at least five channels to search for gifts in the course of a typical two-day period. So, the more locations your brand can be found, the greater your chances of driving new business.
That said, you don’t need to be on every channel. Focus on where your target audience already hangs out online. See if your eCommerce platform offers native integrations or tools for managing multichannel sales to simplify your work. As you expand to more channels, you’ll want to familiarize with how items are ranked, displayed, and promoted on those channels.
Make sure your product listings and promotions are synchronized; the goal is to offer an intriguing assortment of items across channels, without undercutting your core eCommerce site business. Themed selections, trending items, and unique gift picks are all good options to showcase on third-party channels.
More multichannel best practices:
Multichannel selling: boost sales without hurting your brand
Becoming a Wish merchant: how to sell products on the global marketplace
Tips for preparing your holiday marketing campaigns
If you’ve followed the recommendations above, then your site should be in good shape by the time the holidays roll around. There’s just one more thing you need to worry about: attracting customers. Needless to say, you’ll want to set up strong marketing campaigns to entice shoppers to your site. But proceed carefully: in a season when shoppers are inundated by promotional offers, relevance and timing are key.
12. Schedule email campaigns to boost conversions and loyalty
Email is the quiet workhorse of eCommerce marketing: 47.5% of marketers report that it’s still very effective for achieving business goals, according to Hubspot. Context and timing are crucial, so use early-season campaign results to better hone subsequent promotions.
“The most powerful marketing action you can take is to think of the entire holiday season as one large, multi-part campaign,” advises Mike Rossi, co-founder and CEO of Smile.io, a Wix partner.
“Before you draft your first email, you need to have a cohesive plan for what you’re going to do with the results of that first campaign. How will you market to newly acquired pre-Black Friday shoppers in the coming months to retain them? Do you want to reactivate past customers during Black Friday and Cyber Monday when everyone else is marketing to them, or hold off until the post-holiday season when sales are typically lower?”
“Having a cohesive plan to know which of your customers you want to market to at each point of the holiday season is crucial if you want to make the most of this critical time for your brand,” Rossi adds.
More tips for email optimization:
Ecommerce email marketing: a rundown of the top emails you need to send
13. Offer gift cards with cross-channel flexibility
In uncertain times, gift cards are a reliable hit. In 2021, consumers sidestepped the supply chain crunch by turning to gift cards in record numbers, driving a 114% increase in sales year-over-year, according to Digital Commerce 360.
This year the trend is set to continue, so offering gift cards and highlighting them prominently is a smart move. Even smarter: allowing shopping credits to be used both in-store and online, regardless of the gift card format.
Gift card best practices:
14. Leverage content to inspire holiday cheer
Content such as videos, blog posts, and gift guides can be useful for a number of reasons. Not only do they inspire your customers to take action, but they also help you to powerfully reach new audiences.
Establish a holiday content calendar that can help you engage customers in a number of ways. Consider partnering with another brand or influencer for unboxing videos, blog features, live stream, and other collaborative content. Or, invite user-generated content (UGC) by asking your customers for reviews, launching a hashtag campaign, and hosting a contest through which participants can win rewards by creating or sharing content around your brand.
More content ideas:
15. Get social
More than half of 2021 consumers (58%) said that they planned to turn to social media for gift inspiration during the holiday season, according to McKinsey. With the meteoric rise of channels like TikTok, and ever-more-seamless tools to buy within social apps, you can expect that number to grow this holiday season.
To focus your efforts, consider which social networks your target audience already uses and what content resonates with them on those channels. Hashtag campaigns might be ideal for Instagram, while Pinterest users are more likely to pay attention to beautifully curated boards. Meanwhile, TikTok viewers might follow your brand after seeing a funny video set to a trending tune. Get creative and harness the social channels at your disposal.
To make social media merry and bright:
Social commerce platforms: 7 new tools that'll supersize holiday sales
Prepare for a wild and successful season
The 2022 holiday season is up for grabs. To make the most of it, preparedness is key. By establishing strong workflows, flexible back-end integrations, and focused marketing strategies, you can win new customers and strengthen your brand’s reputation for 2023 and beyond.
Editor, Wix eCommerce
Allison is the editor for the Wix eCommerce blog, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.